Sunday, 24 May 2009

Funny how things work out

As I mentioned the other day, I used to review West End plays from time to time for a chain of provincial weekly newspapers, and once I was sent to Les Trois Mousquetaires at the Piccadilly Theatre. This was a burlesque of 17th century swashbucklers devised by Roger Planchon's company, which had transferred from the Edinburgh Festival for a brief season in London.

[By coincidence, just after I had written the above but before I had posted it, I read that Roger Planchon has died aged 77.]

It was based on Dumas' play and had much of his plot going at a terrific clip, with the Cardinal Duc de Richelieu concocting villainy and an omelette simultaneously, Sa Grace le Duc de Buckingham bathing and being murdered in a barrel and of course the Musketeers, killing the wrong people and generally making pests of themselves. Around these, and a fatuous Louis Treize and his Queen with assorted hangers-on, revolved an engaging farce; for good measure, parodies of Brecht and Claudel were thrown in.

At one point Buckingham shouts, pointlessly, "My kingdom for a horse!", but apart from that it was all in French. I had been taught the language at school for eight years, but when I went to France for the first time I had found that I didn't know enough of it to buy a pack of cigarettes, let alone follow a play, so I thought I'd better get someone to come with me to help.

A French friend of mine was living in England at the time and introduced me to his sister, who had come over to stay with him for a while. She had previously lived over here as a child and gone to the Lycée Française in London, so I knew that she would be able to translate into English for me when necessary and I asked her to come to the play with me. She accepted the invitation, the evening passed off very agreeably and it was a long time before she returned to France.

Reader, I married her.

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